It's been two weeks since Election Day and I know we can all think of reasons not to give thanks.
Losing a tight race in the face of unfair attacks, after all we did together, was hard. Seeing my candidate for president win the popular vote and lose the White House to a man I deem unfit for such an office was even harder. Watching acts of bigotry and hate against people I love, and occasional violent protests against the President-elect, spill out across our country is harder still.
How do we respond this Thanksgiving?
For some historical perspective, I recently returned to Carl Sandburg’s monumental biography of Abraham Lincoln. It's a marvelous read and left me with the humbling thought: If America feels divided today, just imagine how it must have felt 150 years ago during and immediately after the Civil War. How could people possibly stop and give thanks at such a time?
Yet in the midst of America's deadliest conflict, a New Hampshire-born writer, Sarah Josepha Hale, prevailed on President Lincoln to establish a national Thanksgiving holiday as a “unifying measure [to] help ease growing tensions and divisions between the northern and southern parts of the country.”
In his Thanksgiving Proclamation of October 3, 1863, President Lincoln offered thanks to God and “with humble penitence for our national disobedience” called for tender care toward "all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.” He went on to implore God to "heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union."
Sound ambitious? It was. But if our forebears could come together in thanksgiving at such a time, surely we can too.
Troubled as I am by recent events and determined as I remain to keep fighting for a more just and inclusive country, I cannot deny the truth that I have so much to be thankful for – for my family and friends and countless material blessings; for all of you who gave me the incredible chance to step forward as a candidate this year; for the sacrifices our forbears made and the freedoms we still enjoy, in spite of the election; and for a country that is always great when we keep the faith and come together as Americans, remembering that what unites us is greater than what divides us.
We have so much work to do to achieve "peace, harmony, and Union" that's fair to all Americans, regardless of how they look, who they love, or where they come from. Let's do it in a spirit of thanks for all that's right about America.